Local News

Businessman Plans Chain of Private Schools

Posted August 20, 2007 5:42 p.m. EDT
Updated August 20, 2007 6:52 p.m. EDT

— Wake County commissioners agreed Monday to lobby state lawmakers for more charter schools after a local businessman presented his plans to open two dozen private schools in the area over the next decade.

Robert Luddy said his chain of private schools would be modeled on his popular Franklin Academy charter school in Wake Forest. He recently opened his first private school, Thales Academy, off Capital Boulevard in north Raleigh.

Class sizes at Thales Academy and his other private schools would be kept at about 20 students, and each school would have fewer than 450 students overall, Luddy said. The tuition at Thales is about $5,000 a year, but he said the price is worth paying to avoid Wake County's overcrowded and overburdened public school system.

"I think there's an incredible demand, particularly when schools are available at a reasonable expense," said Luddy, the founder and chief executive of Captive-Aire Systems Inc., which makes ventilation equipment for restaurants and commercial kitchens.

North Carolina state law limits the number of charter schools statewide to 100, but Luddy said more charter schools are needed to give parents more educational options and to create competition for public school districts.

"No system will guarantee that all kids will be geniuses, but what we can do is educate the students to their very highest potential by giving individual attention in the concept we've developed," he said.

Although he supports more choice for parents, Wake County school board member Ron Margiotta said he sees Luddy's idea of dozens of private schools as a threat to the district.

"These private schools are a concern because it's just a matter of time before they bring down the Wake County Public School System as we know it," Margiotta said.

But school board Chairwoman Rosa Gill disagreed.

"I don't see them as a threat," Gill said. "I see them as an enhancement to our program. I don't think that private schools (or) parochial schools are going to take the place of the public school system."